How many Christmas seasons have been way too busy? How many have cost more than expected because I felt I had to travel? How many nights did I have way too many parties to attend than I had hours in the evening? How many times have I wished for “less” during the holidays? How many times did I wish I could opt out of all of the expectations? How about the time I did not want to attend my ex-spouse’s Christmas party because I was exhausted from working all day? How many times have I wished that the holidays could be less exhausting? Less expensive? Less draining?
I’ve always loved camping because it makes me slow way down. It takes away all of the extraneous effort of life and leaves me with the necessities and the wonder of nature. 2020’s Christmas season is offering us that most wonderful of gifts. And, just like camping, it may not feel all that pleasant at the moment. But it will make me appreciate the next holiday season even more. It not only forces me to slow down and appreciate the simple things this year, it helps me remember more fondly the holidays of the past. And, honestly, I’m really, really lucky with the cards I pulled this year.
Imagine the holiday season next year. Worn out from work all day (as I’ll be working again), I’ll have to put on dress clothes, rush to bake cookies or make dip to attend that stupid Christmas party for the neighbor I don’t really like. I’ll stay up to late and be exhausted at work the next day. I’ll be dying to have a day of rest to just take a nap. I’ll need to plop down money I don’t even have to buy plane tickets for travel and burn my precious vacation days sitting in an airport. I’ll gain the extra 10 pounds that I don’t need because I am so out of rhythm that I don’t eat right. And it’ll be with me for at least another 3-6 months as a reminder. I’ll get to visit friends for sure, but there will be so little time with each one that I’ll end up longing for more… more ... more of everything.
I’ll be running out the door to the next thing wishing I could take a minute to sit by my tree and listen to holiday music with my kitten at my feet. Instead of shopping, I’ll be wishing I could take a long hike at Grand Mere State Park with my dog. I’ll stop at a traffic light in a holiday traffic jam and remember the magical Christmas of 2020 when expectations were few, relaxation was all there was to do and people viscerally understood the incredible gift of being alive.
This Christmas hundreds of thousands of people will be without loved ones because of this virus. Many others will be without work and no hope of finding any soon. Others will be homeless or facing imminent foreclosure or eviction in the cold of winter. For them, the holidays have been stripped down to the most basic level. Who would not give up all of the trimmings and festivities for one more year of life for a loved one? Who wouldn’t do without gifts for the promise of a job that is safe and lucrative enough to pay the bills? In 2020, the spirit of Christmas is truly naked in its simplicity. Spirituality, kindness and ritual do not require money or travel. They are the most sacred of things that are available to all of us. It may just be the best thing that happened this year.